Welcome to Histology SSN

Welcome to Histology SSN!
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Histology, like gross anatomy, is a new type of learning for most of you. It is based on visual
learning and visual memory. On tests, you’ll be asked to identify structures and know their
functions based on viewing an image for a regulated amount of time. In SSN, we’ll give you tips
on how to look at slides, what’s important, and how to take visually-based multiple choice
Tonight our goals are to get you comfortable with histo: how to make the best use of your time
before, during and after lab, and how to study and learn from slides.
Objectives of SSN:
The goal of SSN is to help everyone PASS histology. This semester, we will have five SSN
workshops and one practice practical. Most histo workshops will consist of your teachers
reviewing basic concepts, comparing and contrasting structures, and asking exam-like questions.
The practice practical (in mid-December) will be set up in the Histology labs. We’ll do our best
to make it as similar to the real practical as possible.
Our workshops and handouts will NOT cover every detail that you might encounter on exams.
Rather, SSN will cover the BARE MINIMUM of what we think you need to know to pass. This
does not mean that all you should study is your SSN handouts. If you consistently pass but just
barely, the powers that be seem to know everything, and they WILL notice. : ) Remember: we
don’t make the tests or teach the labs or attend your lectures, so in the end, it’s best to use your
own judgment about what’s important and how to study.
Ground Rules:
1. Please feel comfortable coming and going as you please during histo SSN workshops.
We know that you have a lot to do - we were there last year. If it’s not a good use of your
time, then don’t stay. Whether you stay or go, please make every effort not to disrupt
your fellow classmates’ concentration. When you come to histo SSN, you’ll likely be
stressed-out and tired, and many of you will not have studied this material much or at all
before coming. Please keep this in mind and try to be both polite and patient so we can
get through the material as efficiently as possible.
2. If you have a question during SSN, ask us at the END of the presentation, don’t ask your
neighbor. Side conversations can be very distracting to the people around you and if you
have a question, other students probably have the same question. We’d also be happy to
try to answer your question after each presentation.
3. Don’t forget that tutoring is available through SSN if you are really struggling. If you are
interested in this, please contact Kavita Vyas or Matt Doran (kbv2101@columbia.edu
and mnd2101@columbia.edu), the SSN tutor coordinators, or talk to Dr. Rothman
(tpr2@columbia.edu) directly.
Histo Grading Policy:
Histo is a part of SBPM. With the exception of your December and May finals, all SBPM exams
will include a histology section at the end. If you fail the histology section on these exams but
pass the overall exam, you will be invited to see Dr. Rothman to discuss what went wrong and
how you can do better next time. “Passing” grades are defined for each exam depending on
overall results and number of questions, but the cutoff is usually around 70%. During your
December and May finals, you will have a histology practical, for which you will receive a
separate grade. The December practical is cumulative with a focus more on material that has
never been tested (i.e. latest block). The May practical is cumulative FOR THE ENTIRE
COURSE and you cannot pass SBPM without passing the histology final practical. So learn the
stuff the first time, and learn it well. For the practical, the threshold for passing will depend on
how you all do, but again, it will most likely be somewhere in the 65%-70% range.
Study Tips:
 Prepare for lab, go to pre-lab lectures, and go to lab!! If you do this, you will significantly
reduce your exam-week study time for histo. At lab, you have access to incredibly helpful
teachers who can clarify and give you tips on how to remember important things about various
structures. At lab, you’ll also be given practice questions, and you can help each other. If you
work with a few partners in lab, most of you will learn a lot more and remember better than if
you trudge through it on your own.
 Prepare for lab as much as you need to, but your preparation should probably include at least
skimming the assigned Ross reading and reviewing the slides on the web. A lot of people find it
helpful to have Ross with them during lab. If you find it helpful, use the SSN handouts from
previous years when you are in lab – they will be similar if not identical to the ones we give you.
If you do this, please remember that they will NOT include everything on the exam!!! Just think
of it as a skeleton, the bare minimum that you need to know, and use it more as a framework for
learning and later, reviewing the material.
 READ ROSS (4th edition)!! Not only does it have pictures that aren’t on the web, but the text
will be helpful for the entire SBPM exam, not just the histology portion.
 Ask questions! especially in lab, this is how you really learn. The teachers are all very nice,
approachable, and most importantly, very patient. Dr. Rothman also is very welcoming and you
should not hesitate to go see her if you’re having problems with histo. She really wants to help
everyone do well.
 Study with friends before exams too – this will help you remember things more vividly and if
you quiz each other, it will also help you pinpoint the areas that you know vs. those you need to
work on more. It has been found helpful to actually pull out your microscopes with your friends
around the time of the practical and quiz each other by setting up your own slides with questions.
 Practice questions are the most valuable study tool – if you get a question wrong, then you
should review all concepts associated with that slide. Don’t just memorize the answer to that
 Don’t forget to study the electron micrographs! They are on the exams. You can study them
during lab and they are also on reserve at Hammer. Do not rely on the web site for this, because
if you do you will miss the important explanations and not all the EMs are on the web.
 Do the test-type questions in lab.
 Come to SSN and do our practice questions.
 Also remember that everyone has their own style – don’t feel like you have to do what your
friends do. And if it helps, don’t be afraid to lug that microscope back to your room in Bard or
wherever you live and study from the real thing. It’s particularly effective, especially when
you’re studying for the practicals, to study with the microscope and the web at the same time.
 Questions to ask yourself when looking at slides:
1. What do you see (color, shape, size, number and location relative to other structures,
2. How is the slide prepared? (i.e., what are the characteristics of the stain used?)
3. Based on that, what does this structure do? (i.e. is it a cell that is heavily engaged in
protein synthesis as evidence by the high number of ribosomes? If so, can you also
identify characteristics that indicate what the cell will do with the protein produced?
Why would this cell be producing protein/How does this cell’s protein production
play into the overall function of the tissue/organ/system?)
4. So… what is the name of the structure? (you see, identification is actually of
secondary importance to function of the tissue/cell – knowing functional details will
become increasingly important as the course progresses).
5. How can you distinguish this structure from other structures or tissues that may have
a similar appearance? What do the distinguishing features tell you about function?
 Test-taking strategy: Make use of every second of down-time to read questions and answer
choices, ruling out answers that you already know are incorrect. You can also use the answer
choices to guess what the question might be – this will help you narrow down the identification
of structures if there is any confusion. Also, you might find hints buried in the answer choices
that will help you answer other questions. This is especially important for the practical.
The ultimate goal of SSN sessions is to make your life less painless. Though we were in your
position a year, we may not remember what the toughest parts were or may not be teaching
topics in the best way. If you have comments or suggestions, please email the coordinator (Lily
Wang, lcw2101@columbia.edu).
Other useful info:
Histology SSN coordinator:
Lily Wang
Histology SSN teachers:
Anand Desai
Tresha Edwards
Nadia Goodwin
Irene Lo
Rebecca Nardi
Anne O’Donnell
Vinod Voleti
Melissa Walker